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Southern Arizona student prepares for state spelling bee

Posted at 10:45 AM, Mar 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-23 11:08:04-04

NOGALES, Ariz. — It was the word "koinonia" that made Karthik Nemmani of Texas the reigning champ of the Scripps National Spelling Bee last year.

Now a fifth grader in Nogales will get a chance to snag a spot on the national stage.

"I like spelling," said Daniel Woodburn. "I'm actually a bit picky with my classmates."

The 10-year-old knows a thing or two about spelling. Daniel was the champion at his school Francisco Vasquez de Coronado Elementary in Nogales. He then went on to win the Santa Cruz County spelling bee, and on Saturday he'll be in Phoenix to compete with 26 other students from across Arizona.

The winner of the Arizona State Spelling Bee will represent the state in the national competition in Washington, D.C. later this spring.

READ MORE: Scripps National Spelling Bee announces changes.

To prepare Daniel says he goes through his "Merriam-Webster Spell It!" packet for at least 10 minutes a day.

"He might say 10 minutes, but I've seen him studying that every chance he gets," said Daniel's teacher, Ian Danielson.

The study book includes tips on how to spell words that originate from different languages. For example, it says:

“Double consonants are often seen in words from Arabic. More often than not, they occur in the middle of a word as in mummy…”

Writing words in your hand like you often see on TV helps Daniel remember what the word looks like on paper, so he can spell it out in his head.

"Strategy that I use for the big words, like for example 'supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,'" Daniel said. "You split that up into pieces."

He may know a lot of big words, but believe or not Daniel is a numbers guy. Math is his favorite subject. Daniel's mom Ellen Woodburn, who is a teacher at his school, says her son has always been curious and good at memorization.

"When we're in the car he always wanted to know, 'what do those words say, what do they mean?'" said Ellen.

We may be living in a age of cell phones and autocorrect, but nothing beats reading, writing and a good old fashioned spelling bee.

"I's a big form of communication and words are the quickest way to communicate with someone," said Ellen.

Daniel will be one of 26 spellers in the state bee on March 23rd. It is at 1 p.m. in the Arizona PBS studios in downtown Phoenix. Below are other students competing from Southern Arizona:

  • Diana Berry, 8th grade, Ray Borane Middle School in Douglas
  • Trevlyn R. Brimhall, 6th grade, Rincon Vista Middle School in Tucson
  • Sai Konkimalla, 8th grade, BASIS Oro Valley